Monday, January 31, 2011
Some recent Singles Jukebox scores and blurbs:

Bruno Mars – Grenade [3/5]
The Katy Perry Boobs Explosion – Firework [2/3.35]
Black Eyed Peas – The Time (Dirty Bit) [2/3.94]
Nicki Minaj ft. Eminem – Roman’s Revenge [4/6.12]
Diddy-Dirty-Money-ft.-Skylar-Grey – Coming Home [5/6.91]
The Lonely Island ft. Akon – I Just Had Sex [4/4.42]
Dr Dre ft. Akon & Snoop Dogg – Kush [3/5.5]
Keri Hilson – Pretty Girl Rock [7/6.77]
Jazmine Sullivan – 10 Seconds [6/6.11]
Britney Spears – Hold It Against Me [3/5.73]
Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson – Don’t You Wanna Stay [7/5.43]
Jay-Z ft. Kanye West – H.A.M. [2/4.5]
Lil Wayne ft. Cory Gunz – 6 Foot 7 Foot [4/6.38]
Avril Lavigne – What the Hell [7/5.85]

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I reviewed this week's Out Of Your Head Collective show @ The WindUp Space with Susan Alcorn, Mike Cerri, Ethan Snyder and Dustin Carlson for the City Paper's Noise blog.

The 2011 Remix Report Card, Vol. 1

Friday, January 28, 2011
"Black & Yellow (G-Mix)" by Wiz Khalifa featuring Snoop Dogg, Juicy J and T-Pain
At first when I saw the lineup for this I thought it was a pretty geographically diverse group of artists for a remix of a hometown anthem, but it's not like there are any other big name Pittsburgh rappers Wiz could've gotten on this, I guess (although I'd love to see him do a track with Grand Buffet just for how surreal that would be). I like the little subtle changes to the beat, and pretty much all 4 of these guys do exactly what you'd expect them to do, no more, no less, and kind of out of default I think I like autopilot Juicy J best.
Best Verse: Juicy J
Overall Grade: B

"Kush (Remix)" by Dr. Dre featuring Game, Snoop Dogg and Akon
Zzzzzzzzz oh what? Did somebody say something? I had the white noise generator I sleep to set on its "Aftermath 2005" setting.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: F

"Lay It Down (Remix)" by Lloyd featuring Young Jeezy and R. Kelly
I never got really into this song, Lloyd's voice sounds really strained and shrill on the chorus, but I like the vibe of the remix, especially his hilarious spoken intro. Jeezy's an odd fit but he works, and it's always fun to watch Kelly deign to bless a young R&B cat's track and kind of good-naturedly show them how it's done.
Best Verse: R. Kelly
Overall Grade: A-

"Loving You No More (Remix)" by Diddy-Dirty Money featuring T-Pain and Gucci Mane
Drake's verse was pretty much the only thing I didn't like about the original, so swapping him out for 2 guys I like a lot more, even if they're both kinda past their respective peaks, is right up my alley. Pain's a little annoying, but Gucci sounds surprisingly comfortable on this beat and I love how he calls Diddy "Puff Daddy."
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: A-

"One In A Million (Remix)" by Ne-Yo featuring Fabolous and Jadakiss
It feels like this is the billionth R&B radio jam these 2 guys have hopped on the remix of, but they're both pretty consistent at delivering good verses on those, so I'm not at all sick of it yet. Fab's a little subpar, though, and Jada ain't much better.
Best Verse: Jadakiss
Overall Grade: C

"Rap Song (So So Def Remix)" by T-Pain featuring Jermaine Dupri
A posse cut with whoever else is on So So Def now wouldn't be that exciting, but who thought a remix with just a verse from JD was a good idea? I gotta admit I kinda dig this anyway, though.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B-

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I wrote a piece for Splice Today about the Dismemberment Plan's recent reunion and the show I went to last Saturday at the 9:30 Club.

TV Diary

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
a) "Portlandia"
Considering that Fred Armisen irritates me the most on SNL when he's doing goofy hipster type characters and Carrie Brownstein doesn't have much screen presence as an actress, I was surprised to not totally hate this. A couple of sketches in the first episode, particularly the one with Steve Buscemi, made me laugh, so maybe I'll give this more of a chance than I thought I would. People seem to get really weirded out about effete liberals satirizing themselves, but as far as that goes it's not as good as "Bored To Death" and better than "The Goode Family."

b) "Onion News Network"
I kind of watch as little video online as possible, so I'd never really seen much of this stuff when it was just on the Onion website, but what little I did see seemed funny, but I'm still kind of surprised at how well this came together as a TV series. Mostly it's that the host character, Brooke Alvarez, is like in the same universe of Colbert as just a ruthless satire of a cable news personality, and that she's able to just say these horrible things with the perfect dry delivery, but a lot of the pre-taped segments are good too.

c) "Onion SportsDome"
It's kinda funny that The Onion has 2 TV shows premiering on 2 channels around the same time, and I feel like Comedy Central took this one because the straight news satire is a niche they've already got kinda covered. But this is definitely the weaker of the 2 shows, although it's still pretty funny, and I'd probably enjoy it more if I was a sports fan, not that the humor seems to depend on that much.

d) "Fairly Legal"
This show first caught my attention with its hysterically bad name, but given the ultra generic original title, "Facing Kate," this is actually an improvement. Anyway I'm not too big on these kind of light fluffy USA shows, but Sarah Shahi is so blazing hot that I might end up watching this regularly, and the pilot was kind of charming.

e) "Perfect Couples"
David Walton was so funny in Fired Up that I've kinda been watching his career and was disappointed that NBC put him the absolutely awful "100 Questions," and then pleasantly surprised that they put him in a new show before that one had even been officially canceled. This one's not a whole lot better, but I don't think it's as bad as it's made out to be by the weird cabal of people on the internet who are angry that Olivia Munn has a career.

f) "Retired At 35"
Another super cheesy old school sitcom on TV Land to be paired up with "Hot In Cleveland," with more vaguely likable old TV stars. Perfectly pleasant little trifle, although it really depressed me that being on this show is what Casey Wilson's career has been reduced to, I thought she got a raw deal on "SNL."

g) "Skins"
I don't really need to have seen the British original to know this is absolutely horrible, like even when there were these crazy hot teenagers running around screwing each other I had a hard time paying much attention to the first episode.

h) "Being Human"
I don't really need to have seen the British original to enjoy this, it's a bit light and doesn't have a lot in the way of effects like most SyFy shows, but they did a good job with the casting, I could see this show gelling and staying on for a while.

i) "Off The Map"
I kind of inattentively watched this when the first episode came on, looks like another bland show about sexy doctors, but I realized later that Caroline Dhavernas, who I loved in "Wonderfalls," is in this and I couldn't place where I recognized her from at the time, so I might end up watching this again, although it probably won't get any better.

j) "The Cape"
Just an utter, utter bore, don't know why networks throw so much money at trying to make a nerd-bait show like this happen, even casting a girl from "Firefly" as insurance, and then totally shit the bed on the writing and the main actor. Also an object lesson that shows should never do the big 2 hour pilot unless they reeeeally know what they're doing.

k) "Minute To Win It"
Prime time game shows like this are always kind of annoyingly overlong and flashy, and this one has Guy Fieri hosting on top of it all, but I really kind of dig the weird random games they come up with to challenge people with on this show.

l) "Men Of A Certain Age"
This show is settling into its 2nd season really well. Not crazy about the Scott Bakula YouTube commercial thing, but the Ray Romano plots have been great and Andre Braugher is hitting all the right notes as usual.

m) "Primeval"
My wife really liked the first couple seasons of this show, then we never saw the 3rd, then they started airing a 4th season and it's almost a whole new cast and it's a little disorienting, but the special effects are still pretty damn cool for a British show.

n) "Fashion Police"
I never used to watch this show before Joan Rivers was on it, and it's weird to think of her as a draw but really after that documentary about her I do find her a little more interesting and appreciate her style of humor more, and this is really just a great excuse for her to be mean. Also E! keeps putting it on after "The Soup" so it's hard to turn off.

10 More Favorite Albums Of The '00s

Monday, January 24, 2011

A little over a year ago, I counted down my top 100 albums of 2000-2009. And obviously at a certain point with a list like that, you have to make some kind of arbitrary decisions and leave out some equally great and worthwhile records just to keep it at a nice round number. I don't know if I'll ever revisit or re-order the list, but I thought it'd be nice, a year later, to look at some albums I hemmed and hawed about omitting, or instantly regretted not keeping on the list once it was done, or realized were great later on. Who knows, I might do this every year, and have a full 100 more albums by 2020.

D'Angelo - Voodoo (Cheeba Sound/Virgin Records, 2000)
I've always liked this album but I've also always kind of struggled with it, first with the disappointment that the whole thing wasn't as catchy and immediate as "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)," then with kind of annoyance at how overrated it is by some people and held up as the pinnacle of modern R&B. In a way, I put Instant Vintage by Raphael Saadiq, co-writer of "Untitled," on the top 100 list directly as a response to all that, but ultimately I do think that's a better album. But Voodoo is pretty great too, when I'm in the mood for it.

Paramore - Riot! (Fueled By Ramen, 2007)
The original top 100 had a good helping of crossover emo bands like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, but somehow this album, as much as I love it, got lost in the shuffle. The follow-up, brand new eyes, got a lot more love from johnny come lately critics, but this is clearly their breakthrough and is just front to back great, especially ending on a high note with "Born For This."

Lil Boosie - Superbad: The Return of Boosie Badazz (Trill Entertainment/Asylum Records, 2009)
When I finalized the top 100 last year, this album had only been out a few weeks, so I wasn't quite ready to include it, although I did put it on my top 10 at the end of '09. It's not easy to pick a single best release out of Boosie's thee official albums and a whole mess of mixtapes, which may be all we have for a while, perhaps forever, depending on how long his current jail sentence ends up being and whether he's convicted of the murder he was charged with. But more and more I feel like this album is just about the best full-length project he's done, although a couple of the mixtapes come close.

Fishboy - Albatross: How We Failed to Save the Lone Star State With The Power Of Rock And Roll (Happy Happy Birthday To Me, 2007)
Fishboy is one of the many great unheralded little touring bands I stumbled across while covering local shows in Baltimore over the past few years -- one night these guys who drove all the way from Texas put on an amazing set for a handful of people in a cold basement in the old Charm City Art Space location, playing this weird awesome rock opera they'd just released, which I didn't get around to buying until a couple years later. The guy's voice is kind of Dead Milkmen-level squeaky, and the album doesn't rock nearly as hard as their live show did, but this is still a really charming and well assembled album -- the bizarre hard to follow narrative involving Texas and the ghost of Buddy Holly kind of keeps making me think about this great weird sci-fi novel I read as a teenager, Bradley Denton's Buddy Holly Is Alive And Well On Ganymede.

Sparklehorse - It's A Wonderful Life (Capitol/EMI Records, 2001)
One of my rules of thumb with the '00s list was that I'd try to cut out any records by people who'd made better albums in the '90s unless they were absolutely essential, which means that my 3rd favorite Sparklehorse album just didn't stand a chance. I felt a little guilty about that after Mark Linkous's death a few months later, because It's A Wonderful Life still is a pretty lovely album, even if its charms are a bit more mellow and sedate than the gnarled weirdness of the first 2 albums. "Comfort Me" might be my favorite Sparklehorse song of all time some days.

T-Pain - Epiphany (Konvict Muzik/Jive Records/Zomba Label Group, 2007)
For about a year or two after this album dropped, T-Pain just seemed to get more and more ubiquitous and influential and it really felt like he was becoming a driving creative force of R&B, and then the bottom just kinda dropped out. At some point his first couple albums may sound dated, but they're still pretty great and at the moment everyone's still jocking AutoTune, but he still did that shit the best.

Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual (We*Are*Free, 2008)
I had a lot of Baltimore bands on the original top 100, and I'm not sure why Ponytail didn't make the cut because this album really is just a delight, and Dustin Wong's recent solo album kinda reminded me how deliriously inventive that guy is as a guitarist. I'm not sure what the status of these guys as a band is now, but I really hope I get to see them live someday, still haven't.

Aimee Mann - Bachelor No. 2 or, The Last Remains of the Dodo (SuperEgo, 2000)
I don't have any qualms about listening to adult-contempo singer-songwriter music, but I always felt a little square about liking this album, perhaps because I got into it via the movie Magnolia and its soundtrack. But I gave this a listen recently and its held up really, really well, just a great set of songs with a nice slick production sheen, a distinctive voice and some smart, occasionally devastating lyrics. I should probably listen to Mann's other albums.

J Mascis & The Fog - More Light (Ultimatum/City Slang/Pony Canyon, 2000)
I kinda dug this album back out and reminisced about it recently when I was transcribing the Mike Watt interview I did when he was playing bass in J's band in support of this album. J's reunion with the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. later in the decade was awesome and inspiring in part just because it was great to see those guys bury the hatchet, and while the two albums they've made were very good, to be honest I actually prefer the albums J made by himself, as Dinosaur and then as The Fog. J's a brilliant drummer and it's just great to hear him playing almost every instrument (with backup vocals from Robert Pollard on a couple of the hookier songs), and this record just slams forward with anthem after anthem.

Fat Joe - Loyalty (Atlantic Records, 2002)
His recent The Darkside Vol 1 got props from some people that haven't given Joe a lot of credit for his album in the past, but Fat Joe has secretly always been a pretty solid albums artist with a great ear for beats and a penchant for lyrical introspection and real talk that gets glossed over in his crossover pop singles. And this is probably his best album, just a ton of great bangers, many of them from Cool & Dre before they blew up.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I wrote a post about Greenspan's live video for "Gone" with Amber Mimz and Soul Adrenaline for the City Paper's Noise blog.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Village Voice's 2010 Pazz & Jop critics poll results are up, and here is my ballot from my 4th year voting in the poll. The Voice also published a few words I wrote in the poll's comments section, which were part of a longer rant lamenting how the singles poll has of late favored indie rock, blog favorites and tracks from the albums poll winners over the hit singles that used to dominate the singles poll. I ended up rewriting that rant as a column about this year's poll for, which was built primarily on a bunch of number-crunching I started doing after last year's poll regarding how many P&J singles poll winners actually were chart hits every year since 1979. And Glenn McDonald, who's been doing amazing Pazz & Jop statistical breakdowns every year for a while now, helped me put together P&J&B, which puts all that info into some fairly digestible statistics and graphs that really show how much less populist the poll is now than it once was.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I reviewed the Lower Dens album Twin-Hand Movement for

Movie Diary

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
a) Season of the Witch
I like to go out for dinner and a movie for my birthday, but since it's in January there's usually not a whole lot of particularly exciting stuff playing. But my wife and I went and made a go of it over the weekend, and decided to just role the dice and see what was playing, and since the next showing of True Grit was over an hour away, we defaulted to this, which she was much more excited about than I was. At the end, she turned to me and said "I'm sorry that was so bad," but I pretty much enjoyed it. I mean, it's a Nic Cage movie! You've gotta adjust your expectations, and half the time he and Ron Perlman were basically playing this like a buddy cop movie. Also one of those movies where the quality of the CGI and visual effects veered wildly between awesome and embarrassing.

b) Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work
This is kind of like Tyson in that it's just interesting to see a documentary that makes me rethink, or really just think at all about someone who's been a pop culture fixture for pretty much as long as I can remember and never actually formed any kind of strong opinion about, but it's also obviously not nearly as good or as fascinating as Tyson. It manages to feel kind of like a puff piece sometimes even with its warts-and-all approach, and when a few minutes are given over to really serious discussion of "Celebrity Apprentice" I kinda tune out, but a lot of the time this is really interesting and sheds a new light on Rivers and makes me appreciate her style of comedy and the story of her career more.

c) Death At A Funeral
I watched the original British version just a few weeks ago, and enjoyed it well enough, but it didn't stick with me enough that I could even totally tell how much they changed it for this remake and how much they kept the original dialogue and jokes. Kind of odd for Neil LaBute to direct a remake of this starring Chris Rock, but it works, especially considering that there are about a dozen people in here that are never not funny -- James Marsden in particular has been gaining my respect as an underrated comic talent. Overall it was more silly and entertaining than outright funny, though.

d) The Book of Eli
Getting some serious post-apocalytic fatigue ennui here, and this movie ain't helping. The other night there was a question about this movie on "Jeopardy!" and the answer was totally a plot spoiler, I thought that was kinda fucked up.

e) The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Watching Darjeeling Limited recently reaffirmed for me how much of a rut Wes Anderson had dug himself into by his 5th movie, so I was pleasantly surprised that the gambit of applying all his familiar tics and themes to a stop motion animated film actually totally worked. Part of it was just that it was visually dazzling and charming, but it also just had a strong story, great voice performances, really a movie I'd be happy to show to my son.

f) The Boys Are Back
Kind of refreshing to see Clive Owen in a kind of low key domestic role after being a dashing man of action so much, and being a stay-at-home dad now tends to make these kinds of meditations on hands-on fatherhood a little more resonant with me than they might be otherwise. A sad story but a nice one.

g) Post Grad
I feel like there's been a lot of lingering goodwill for Michael Keaton over the past decade or so that he's barely been in anything, and had kind of hoped he'd back out of hiding with some great role that would justify how much people have missed him. Instead, he's part of one of the most overqualified supporting casts I've ever seen (along with Carol Burnett, Jane Lynch, and J.K. Simmons) in this lightweight comedy that rests uncomfortably on the shoulders of Alexis Bledel and her dialogue-flattening blank little girl voice and total lack of convincing emotional expression.

h) A Perfect Getaway
The kind of movie about a mysterious killer where your enjoyment pretty much hinges on how stupid or clever or predictable or shocking the identity of the killer turns out to be, and for me this was pretty much idiotic. Up until the reveal there was some pretty good tension, though. Also totally weird and surprising to see Milla Jovovich play a normal human being with lots of dialogue and actually pull it off and be believable.

i) Away We Go
I kind of took it as a given that I would hate this and really kind of turned it on being bored and expecting the bile to just come spilling out, and while it was kind of precious and earnest in the way that Dave Eggers stuff usually is, it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd thought it would be. Again, being a parent makes me kind of identify with and go easier on these kinds of movies maybe, but from a storytelling, comedic or dramatic standpoint, it's not like it was very good either, it just kind of sat there.

j) The Great Buck Howard
Saw this on TV a while ago and kinda forgot to mention it in this space, which is a shame because it's pretty good. Really feel like Malkovich doesn't get to have fun playing light characters liek this enough, would love to see him do more stuff in this vein in the future.

k) The Shortcut
Goofy horror movie starring James Franco's skeevy-looking little brother and my crush from "The Riches" and "Raising Hope," Shannon Marie Woodward. The whole premise and the way it unravelled was kinda dumb, but there were some nice creepy moments.

l) Sex And Breakfast
Pretty stupid indie dramedy about relationships that I mainly watched for a decent amount of Eliza Dushku sex scenes, was also pleasantly surprised to hear Baltimore's The Oranges Band pop up in the soundtrack.

m) The Touch
I was scrolling down the OnDemand menu looking for a movie to watch and found this 1997 Elmore Leonard adaptation co-starring Chistopher Walken that I'd never even heard of and decided to roll the dice. And hey, it was pretty good. At the very least, it lived up to my expectations for some vintage Walken speech mannerisms and body language. When that guy is on he's just amazing to watch.

n) My Dinner With Andre
I'd heard about this movie and references to it so many times over the years without really seeing any of it or knowing much about it, and damn, this is just remarkable, lightening in a bottle.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I saw Cameron Blake, Sea Couch, Sine Jensen and Adam Trice perform at Songwriter Sessions @ Golden West and wrote it up on the City Paper's Noise blog.

Monthly Report: December Albums

Monday, January 17, 2011

1. Diddy-Dirty Money - Last Train To Paris
This already rocketed to being my #2 album of the year as soon as I heard it, but I'm still kind of exploring this whole long epic thing (specifically, the 81-minute iTunes deluxe version of the album with the alternate tracklisting) and finding new things in it with every listen. "Shades" and "Yeah Yeah You Would" and "First Place Loser" in particular are just incredible. And since this is really more of an R&B album than a rap album, it makes a nice way to top what kind of inadvertantly ended up being an all-R&B Monthly Report.

2. R. Kelly - Love Letter
I hated "When A Woman Loves" and everything it represents, in terms of R. beating you over the head with the classic soul pedigree that he usually subtly embeds into songs that are more modern, more creative, more human, and more uniquely his own. But I'm glad I got past that enough to check out this album, which to my pleasant surprise isn't at all a retro exercise most of the time, although it does mercifully retreat from the game of playing catch-up with all his mini-me's running around the charts (T-Pain, The-Dream, Trey Songz) that his last couple albums were becoming. More than anything, it's simply a throwback to the smoother side of the Chocolate Factory era, smoothed out even more, to the point that it recalls Donald Fagen solo albums more than any analog era soul music.

3. Keri Hilson - No Boys Allowed
In A Perfect World... was a perfectly nice, just good enough debut, both in terms of its quality and its commercial performance, and in a way No Boys Allowed follows suit by being just a little bit better and a little bit more consistent, but by no means any kind of major leap forward. If she keeps this up for 4 or 5 more albums, Keri might have a classic.

4. Ciara - Basic Instinct
This is a pretty hit-and-miss album for me, I love "Gimmie Dat" and "Speechless" and "You Can Get It" about as much as I hate "Ride" and "Turn It Up," so I never really get in a groove with it, it's all up and down for me. Still, Tricky Stewart is one of the best and most versatile producers in the business right now, and that guy who writes lyrics for his stuff is okay too.

5. Keyshia Cole - Calling All Hearts
Keyshia Cole's fourth album was released the Tuesday before Christmas, and I had no idea it even existed or that she had a single out until about a week later. So I partly checked this out sort of out of pity for how a pretty successful artist whose last album had big radio hits just kinda got an album tossed out with such little fanfare (although it sold better than every other album on this list, so maybe Keyshia's label knows what they're doing), but I did like A Different Me and loved a good amount of her singles. I'm less than thrilled with the increasingly adult contempo-leaning direction of her music, but that's at least partly for the very shallow reason that I figure the more mature and downtempo her music gets, the less we'll see of Keyshia's incredible rack. But this is a pretty solid slow jams album, and it deserves some credit for having a really sustained mood and coherent sound considering that it features contributions from a lineup of collaborators as all over the map as Timbaland, Dianne Warren, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.

Monthly Report: December Singles

Saturday, January 15, 2011

1. Pink - “Raise Your Glass”
I kind of went back and forth for a while with this song; I gave it a positive score on Singles Jukebox the first couple times I listened to it and just kind of had a vague “I like other recent Pink songs, this sounds like those” reaction. Then I listened to it closer and found it annoying. Then I heard it enough times that the annoying parts retained a certain charm and before I knew it I was dancing around the apartment to it to entertain my son.

2. Patrick Stump - “Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)”
Patrick Stump’s solo album Soul Punk might be my most anticipated album of 2011. I’ve always thought the guy was pretty talented and it’ll be interesting to see what he’s capable of doing outside of Fall Out Boy. At first I wasn’t so taken with the lead single, but I like the fact that he’s released two very different versions of the song to let people figure out which they like best; “Spotlight (New Regrets)” is the more pop, radio-friendly version that will be a hit if the song is any kind of hit, and while that one is growing on me, I still like the more rock-sounding version, “Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia).”

3. Chris Brown - “Yeah 3X”
I’ve featured Chris Brown songs in this space twice since that whole beating-Rihanna's-face-in thing happened (”Crawl” and T-Pain’s “Freeze”), but since those songs were kind of flops, and I hated his big recent hit “Deuces,” I got to kind of avoid feeling like I was at all culpable in this guy’s undeserved comeback. Now, I like one of his new singles on the rise, and for the first time I feel a bit more conflicted and embarrassed about liking it, especially because it’s on that douchey Eurohouse tip that so much R&B has been turning to lately. But it is a catchy song that’s been growing on me, and I’m just being honest about what I’m listening to here. Also I kind of love the title.

4. Kings of Leon - “Radioactive”
Speaking of guilty pleasure, I never thought I’d have to worry about grudgingly enjoying a song by these guys, and this one seemed especially stupid and worthless at first. But dammit, I kind of started to enjoy it at some point.

5. Paramore - “Playing God”
It’s kind of freaky how Paramore made this a single and released the video right before the shit hit the fan with two members leaving the band. So while Josh and Zach Farro were releasing a statement accusing Hayley Williams of being a diva with her own management whose lyrics have gone against the band’s religious beliefs, they’ve got a song out called “Playing God” (with lyrics about accusations and finger pointing), and in the video Williams is keeping the boys in the band tied up in her basement, and at the end she walks up to the surface and leaves them behind. Also, it’s a pretty good song, one of my favorites off brand new eyes, so it’s nice to see it as a single, even if it’s a low profile one from the very end of the album cycle.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I reviewed Little Feat's show at Rams Head Live this week for the City Paper's Noise blog. It was the first time I'd seen the band since Richie Hayward died, and I took my dad, a lifelong Little Feat fan who regaled me with stories of meeting the band in the '70s when they were recording Feats Don't Fail Me Now in Maryland, and I found this amazing recent Baltimore Magazine article about the studio they recorded at in Hunt Valley.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm the featured music critic in the Get To Know A Critic column on NPR's music blog The Record, and above is the chaos that is my workspace that they asked me to photograph in addition to answering Frannie Kelly's questions about my writing career and relationship with music.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I reviewed Big In Japan with Celebration's Katrina Ford, The Water, Infinite Honey and Avacado Happy Hour @ The Ottobar on January 7th for the City Paper's Noise blog.

TV Diary

Monday, January 10, 2011
a) "Shameless"
I always thought Emmy Rossum was hot but never had really seen anything she was in, so my jaw was pretty much on the floor throughout the pilot for this show, where she's in various states of undress for half the episode. William H. Macy seems to be having a lot of fun playing against type, but I don't know if I actually like his performance. Kind of waiting to see a few more episodes and see how it all pans out.

b) "Episodes"
I'm kind of burned out on meta showbiz comedy, and having a bunch of people who created or were in "Friends" and "Mad About You" jump on the bandwagon seems especially eye-rolling, but so far I think this has potential, the British couple have their moments and I feel like once this gets going it's just going to snowball and Matt LeBlanc is going to be hilarious.

c) "Bob's Burgers"
I love "Home Movies" so much that it's really just exciting in and of itself to have the creator and so many of the voice actors back together and doing something with a similar sensibility and those great offbeat comic rhythmcs in the dialogue. That said, the more traditional animation on this show looks like utter shit and it feels like it'll be a little harder to warm up to these characters, and in general it just seemed like another in a long line of failed attempts by FOX to flesh out their animation lineup beyond McFarlane and Groening, so I'm almost trying not to get too attached to it.

d) "Storage Wars"
A&E has done shows about so many offbeats hobbies and professions and habits that I'm aboslutely not surprised that they managed to make people buying and reselling the contents of storage units into an entertaining show. I especially liked the one where the guy ended up buying a storage unit owned by Suge Knight. It even had one of his big red suits!

e) "Strange Days with Bob Saget"
This is kind of a goofy show where Saget goes and spends a few days with some group or subculture, like a motorcycle club or a kid's summer camp or bigfoot hunters, and just learns about what they do. But it works because Saget's voiceover skills, well known to any "How I Met Your Mother" fan, are great, and he lets his humor seep in more with subtle asides and dry jokes in the narration than being all-out obscene like in his standup routines.

f) "Dean of Invention"
Dean Kamen is I guess a good figurehead to put on a show about inventors, but they also realized that he's not really a very entertaining TV personality and have some lady do most of the real hosting with Kamen just occasionally interjecting. The episode I saw about user-friendly planes was neat.

g) "Glory Daze"
With all the classic sitcoms TBS runs all day you'd think they'd know enough about the form to do decent shows themselves, but they always come up with some weak sauce like this. Even Andy Richter appearing, I guess as part of the deal with the new "Conan" show or something, can't save this from being totally unfunny and forgettable.

h) "Rizzoli & Isles"
I tuned in and out of an all-day marathon of this recenlty and wished I'd watched it regularly when it started airing. Law procedurals aren't really my thing but when it's kind of light and fluffy like this and is all about two pretty ladies I'm cool with it.

i) Industrial Light & Magic: Creating The Impossible
Semi-interesting TV documentary with totally distracting voiceover narration by Tom Cruise, kinda cool to get an overview of the history of the company beyond just its Lucas/Star Wars foundation, although it really was kind of hilarious and sad to watch them get all excited showing the dumb CGI bullshit they invented for those prequels.

j) "The Walking Dead"
Man, the one reason I'm still looking forward to the 2nd season of this was the news that Darabont fired the writing staff after this season wrapped. I still think they've got a lot of potential with this premise and cast and crew, the show looks great, but man on a plotting level they kinda shit the bed and the CDC explosion just kinda looked like shit beyond just being a lame way to end the season.

k) "The Good Guys"
I accurately predicted that this show would be short-lived when it first debuted, but it ended up growing on me over the course of its one season, which FOX weirdly stretched out from May to December, in addition to giving it a bunch of different and mostly lousy timeslots. I think they really found a good comic groove by the end of the 20-episode run, and it was fun when Brad Whitford would bring in an old "West Wing" buddy like Josh Malina or Gary Cole. And like when "Reaper" was cancelled, I will mourn not being able to see the staggeringly hot Jenny Wade on TV every week.

l) "Animal Hoarding"
I've watched some of the shows about hoarders and they could be kind of interesting and even entertaining, but one day my wife watched this and it was just too much for me, it just hurt to watch these misguided souls claiming to be animal lovers and mistreating and harming so many animals, it was just traumatic for me.

m) "Smash Cuts"
With "Tosh.0" and to a lesser degree "Web Soup" having finally figured out how to turn goofy YouTube videos into a watchable TV show, it's kind of entertaining to watch terrible syndicated shows like this still flailing around at it and failing miserably, this one trying to have a bunch of wannabe comics sit around as if in a dorm room riffing on the videos.

n) "I'm Pregant And..."
The episode about the couple where the father was a dwarf and the wife wasn't and the baby had a 50/50 chance of being a dwarf really sucked me in, because they seemed like such nice, genuine people who were just so happy to have their baby no matter how he was born.

o) "Cougar Town"
This show is kinda growing on me, and in the last episode Busy Phillips really killed it and proved herself as probably the biggest comedic talent in the cast. But this kinda feels like "Scrubs" what "Studio 60" was to "The West Wing," the creator of a good show trying to recreate that magic with some of the same people in a totally different setting, it just kind of feels rudderless and the occasional dramatic notes feel forced in a way that wasn't such a problem when the show was set in a hospital.

p) "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew"
This show has always been kind of a morbid fascination for me, because adding addiction to fame and narcissism really gives you an amazingly clusterfucky cocktail of insanity, and Dr. Drew gives it all just enough gravity that it doesn't feel like a total freak show. This season is especially surreal, though, since most of the people aren't even entertainers and are just kind of vaguely famous as fuckups who turn up in tabloids all the time, but after a while they stop being cartoons and are a little empathetic but still kind of grotesque and absurd.

q) "Scare Tactics"
Always meant to watch this since a horror-themed hidden camera prank show hosted by Tracy Morgan seems like an idea with so much potential on paper, finally checked it out recently. And it's aight, but sometimes a little awkwardly paced and the payoff isn't always great. I'm kind of impressed by the creativity and production values of some of the pranks, though.

The Top 25 Concerts I Saw In 2010

Friday, January 07, 2011
I went to around 40 shows in 2010, which is a pretty big number by any sane standard, but still the least I've seen in any year since I began reviewing live music for the City Paper's Noise Blog three years ago. One of the biggest adjustments in my first full year as a father was just mustering the energy to go out at night, after a day with the baby, or in some cases earlier in the year, not wanting to leave his mom to deal with a cranky kid by herself, so I really just flaked out on a ton of shows I thought about going to. And paradoxically I've decided to expand this list to 25 shows, more than any previous year I've done one of these lists (2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009) because I ended up making up for the quantity with quality and seeing a head-spinning number of amazing, memorable performances, by some of my favorite bands of all time as well as some virtual no-names from Baltimore and from out-of-town. Performers from each show are listed by rough order of enjoyment rather than billing:

1. Casual Curious, Andrew Weathers Ensemble & Us And Only Us @ the Hexagon, July 28
2. Superchunk @ 9:30 Club, September 17
3. Bossman, Mullyman, Skarr Akbar, 100 Grandman, TestMe & Smash @ the Black Hole Rock Club, March 17
4. Israel Darling, Kadman & The Foreign Press @ Velvet Lounge, June 8
5. The Posies @ Brendan Benson @ 9:30 Club, November 17
6. Soul Cannon, Mania Music Group & The Get Em Mamis @ the Windup Space, July 3
7. Rap Round Robin with Mickey Free, PT Burnem, Rapdragons, Height With Friends & AK Slaughter @ Floristree, August 7
8. Medications & Deleted Scenes @ Sidebar, May 24
9. Ted Leo/Pharmacists @ 9:30 Club, April 8
10. The Nels Cline Singers @ Black Cat, July 8
11. BiMA Fest with Among Wolves, Avec, Hammer No More The Fingers, Gary B & The Notions, The Moaners, Thrushes, Sal Bando & Beard @ Windup Space and Hexagon, August 27
12. Say Anything @ Sonar, November 12
13. Parts & Labor and Soft Power @ Black Cat, May 13
14. Novo Instrumental Music Festival with Yeveto & Nathan Bell @ Windup Space, March 4
15. The Gaslight Anthem @ Rams Head Live, September 28
16. The Pilgrim, Arbouretum & Caltrop @ Metro Gallery, October 8
17. The High Zero Festival @ Theatre Project, September 25
18. We Used To Be Family, Lands & Peoples and Yukon @ Metro Gallery, June 16
19. J Roddy Walston & The Business and Tommy Tucker & The Supernaturals @ The Ottobar, July 31
20. Tears For Fears @ Rams Head Live, August 24
21. The Streets of Baltimore: Songs of Our City @ Creative Alliance, November 20
22. Story/Stereo with Devin Ocampo @ The Writer's Center, November 5
23. Out Of Your Head Collective @ Windup Space, January 19th
24. Man & Dog and The Feast of Epiphany @ An die Musik, January 4
25. The B-52s @ Rams Head Live, May 22

Wednesday, January 05, 2011
My latest Singles Jukebox scores from the last few weeks:

Lauryn Hill – Repercussions [4/4.71]
Faith Evans – Gone Already [3/4.78]
Akon – Angel [2/2.64]
The Ready Set – Love Like Woe [1/2.12]
Miguel ft. J Cole – All I Want Is You [4/6.17]
Taylor Swift – Back to December [3/7.27]
Pink – Raise Your Glass [7/5.14]
Wiz Khalifa – Black & Yellow [4/6.42]
Rihanna ft. Drake – What’s My Name [5/4.7]
Nicki Minaj – Right Thru Me [1/5.38]
Kanye West ft. Pusha T – Runaway [1/5.69]
Cypress Hill ft. Marc Anthony & Pitbull – Armada Latina [8/7.6]
Ciara – Gimmie Dat [9/7.56]

The last 2 being part of the 'amnesty week' round of suggested picks, and the latter being the one I suggested myself.

Netflix Diary

Sunday, January 02, 2011
a) Iron Man 2
I really enjoyed the first one and thought this pretty much matched it, not so thrilling that I'd probably want to watch it a bunch of times but entertaining enough the first time. Also really enjoyed the swapping out of Terrence Howard for Don Cheadle, and Mickey Rourke wasn't as eye-rollingly campy as I feard, but ScarJo seemed a little underused. The action scenes in this one worked a little better than in the first, too.

b) "30 for 30": The Band That Wouldn't Die
Since I've been on a little Barry Levinson kick I was excited to learn that he recently participated in a series of sports documentaries for ESPEN, and his installment was about the Baltimore Colts marching band, which kept playing for 12 years after the team left for Indianapolis and then became the Ravens band. It's a really amazing story and I don't know how I'd never heard about it before. I was just a little kid when the Colts left town and grew up hearing about what a huge deal the Colts were for my dad when he was young, so it was cool to kind of see the city's dedication to the team documented with this really inspiring story. Also loved the amazing collection of Balmer accents among the various interview participants.

c) "Breaking Bad," Season 2
I liked the first season of this, but a few episodes in I'm having a really really hard time wanting to go forward with the rest of the second season. The Tuco character was just so hammy and contrived, and the whole protracted thing with him just underlined how outright stupid the plots are on this show sometimes. Maybe it gets better?

d) Dead Like Me: Life After Death
This was just kind of depressing to watch, and not in the gallows humor way it was intended. "Dead Like Me" was cancelled after two seasons, and five years later they threw together this TV movie, but instead of wrapping up storylines or even continuing them in any interesting way, they just kind of threw together most of the original cast, with a different actress playing one major character, and no Mandy Ptinkin at all, with Desmond from "Lost" playing his weird eveil replacement and most of the plot ultimately centering on that. It was bad enough how much this show lost its way after creator Bryan Fuller left, but this movie is just totally unnecessary.

e) Zodiac
I generally like David Fincher and thought that this was, most of the time, typically well executed and involving. But I don't really think it totally justified its length, and the kind of wide swath of tones and narrative approaches it took was admirable but highlighted the weaknesses in some of them more. The movie's full of great supporting performances, but the leads are total weak sauce; Jake Gyllenhaal half-heartedly, incompetently trying to communicate the interior life of a man obsessed, Mark Ruffalo doing a weird distant Brando thing as a curmudgeonly cop. Jake Gyllenhaal and Chloe Sevigny are the blandest, most ineffectual pair of actors to have ever attempted to depict a couple meeting, starting a family, and growing apart -- they may as well have just gone from one scene to the next saying "oh hi, I like you...oh hi, we've got kids now...oh hi, I'm losing patience, I'll be at my mother's house." Plus the story spanned so many years and the attempt to be 'subtle' with the period elements and only minimally aging the actors (Gyllenhaal's only transformation over the course of a decade was from two day stubble to four day stubble) knd of made it seem kind of ridiculous, like the clock was racing forward 10-20 years but barely anything was changing in any distinguishable way. Still, there were some pretty damn haunting scenes here and there.

f) "Deadwood," Season 1
I was always vaguely skeptical of all the praise for this show, much in the same way I think more recent period piece cable dramas like "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire" are a little overcooked and overrated. But people who makes shows like "Lost" and just about every show on FX seem to be big fans of "Deadwood" and always casting people from it on their shows, so I decided to give it a shot, and the cast really is great, just a ton of people I've liked in other things. And the flowery profane dialogue is sometimes a little over the top, but stylized and unrealistically articulate dialogue is generally one of the things in movies and TV that I'm more than happy to suspend disbelief for for the sake of my enjoyment. I just realized while putting together this entry how death-obsessed it seems..."Deadwood," "Dead Like Me," The Band That Wouldn't Die, plus a movie about a serial killer and a show about a guy dying of cancer. Weird.